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QB Watson on first start, win: 'It's special'
Houston Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson's 49-yard touchdown scamper is the longest run by a quarterback in Texans franchise history and represents the longest run by a quarterback in NFL history in a starting debut.
Covering nearly half the football field in a hurry, Watson provided the primary early highlight for a sluggish Texans offense that struggled to consistently move the football against the Bengals.
A national championship game winner at Alabama, Watson engineered a victory in his first NFL start while celebrating his 22nd birthday as the Texans held off the Bengals for a narrow 13-9 win at Paul Brown Stadium. Watson's 11-yard scramble with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter set up kicker Kai'imi Fairbairn's 42-yard field goal.
"It's special," Watson said. "Looking back since I was a little boy, this is what I dreamed of. I always told people that I wanted to be an NFL player. They would always ask me what my backup plan was, and I never had one. ... Just being able to have my first start on my birthday was pretty emotional."
Watson completed 15 of 24 passes for 125 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions for a 75.9 passer rating. He was sacked three times, all in the first half. Watson rushed for 67 yards on five carries.
"It wasn't perfect," Texans had coach Bill O'Brien said. "He did some good things. It will be a lot to learn from."
The touchdown run was a glimpse of how dangerous the first-round draft pick and consensus All-America selection from Clemson can be while learning on the fly against NFL defensive schemes that occasionally confused him. While there was potential flashed, Watson also showed there will be some growing pains.
"It was a good play," O'Brien said. "He didn't see anything open down the field and they were in a Tampa coverage. He saw it and he took off. He can run, and he's a very instinctive runner. He did a nice job on that play."
The touchdown run was the signature play by Watson, who engineered a national championship win in his last college start against Alabama.
"I was just trying to make a play," Watson said. "I broke away and found a hole. Our receivers and everybody downfield did a good job of blocking for me and gave me a chance to find the end zone.
"Each big play is a confidence booster. I'm young in this league. I've only seen so much and have so much more to see and experience to be able to get to the top, where I want to be. That's going to take time."
As the replacement for Tom Savage, Watson had some ugly moments in the first half and was fortunate to avoid a pair of potential interceptions that were dropped instead of being returned for touchdowns. Watson also was dogged by some accuracy issues.
"Everything," Watson said when asked what he needs to improve on. "I just want to be a complete professional quarterback, and that's going to take time. My reads, operation with the offense, timing with the receivers, routes, sitting in the pocket, trusting my line. Everything is always a work in progress."